My Shot What equipment makers fail to mention is that extra distance translates into higher greens fees

February 04, 2002

I was amused by the contradiction inherent in Wally Uihlein's MY
SHOT (Jan. 14). Uihlein, the CEO of Titleist's parent company,
trots out the manufacturers' familiar refrain: Advances in
equipment should continue unchecked so the game will be more
enjoyable for the average golfer, especially now that the golf
industry is, as he says, "mired in the same recession as the
rest of the U.S." What Uihlein fails to mention is that golf's
flagging participation rates are due primarily to cost. It's a
simple equation: The farther players hit the ball, the more
length and width we need for safe courses. This additional
acreage means more development costs and greater maintenance
budgets. These expenses are passed on to golfers in the form of
higher greens fees.

The position of course architects has been consistently misstated
and exaggerated--including Titleist's over-the-top TV ads--so that
it seems as if we want the USGA to slow technology just so
classic courses won't be rendered obsolete. That's a noble goal,
but we're equally interested in protecting the courses the
average golfer plays. We all know the pros hit it a mile. Our
concern is the technologically enhanced weekend golfers for whom
a 280-yard drive is now the rule, not the exception. Problem is,
their hooks or slices go proportionally just as far. As
architects we're no longer concerned only about protecting the
people and the houses that border the fairways. Now we have to
worry about the houses across the street from the houses that
border the fairway.

An American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) member
recently analyzed the effects of increased distance, and the
results were disturbing: To combat the hot ball and drivers,
architects will have to use at least 10% more land, inflating
grow-in and maintenance costs by up to 17%! Hitting the ball
farther may be enjoyable, but making golf even more expensive
will do irreparable harm to the game.

Pascuzzo is the president of the ASGCA and a partner in Graves &
Pascuzzo Ltd., a course-design firm in El Dorado Hills, Calif.

COLOR PHOTO: GERRY GROPP

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)